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      Dinosaur Fossils Predict Body Temperatures

      , 1 , 2 , 3 , 4

      PLoS Biology

      Public Library of Science

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          Perhaps the greatest mystery surrounding dinosaurs concerns whether they were endotherms, ectotherms, or some unique intermediate form. Here we present a model that yields estimates of dinosaur body temperature based on ontogenetic growth trajectories obtained from fossil bones. The model predicts that dinosaur body temperatures increased with body mass from approximately 25 °C at 12 kg to approximately 41 °C at 13,000 kg. The model also successfully predicts observed increases in body temperature with body mass for extant crocodiles. These results provide direct evidence that dinosaurs were reptiles that exhibited inertial homeothermy.


          A model based on growth trajectories estimated from fossils provides evidence that dinosaurs were reptiles whose body temperatures increased systematically with increasing body size.

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          Most cited references 35

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          A general model for ontogenetic growth.

          Several equations have been proposed to describe ontogenetic growth trajectories for organisms justified primarily on the goodness of fit rather than on any biological mechanism. Here, we derive a general quantitative model based on fundamental principles for the allocation of metabolic energy between maintenance of existing tissue and the production of new biomass. We thus predict the parameters governing growth curves from basic cellular properties and derive a single parameterless universal curve that describes the growth of many diverse species. The model provides the basis for deriving allometric relationships for growth rates and the timing of life history events.
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            Effects of size and temperature on developmental time.

            Body size and temperature are the two most important variables affecting nearly all biological rates and times. The relationship of size and temperature to development is of particular interest, because during ontogeny size changes and temperature often varies. Here we derive a general model, based on first principles of allometry and biochemical kinetics, that predicts the time of ontogenetic development as a function of body mass and temperature. The model fits embryonic development times spanning a wide range of egg sizes and incubation temperatures for birds and aquatic ectotherms (fish, amphibians, aquatic insects and zooplankton). The model also describes nearly 75% of the variation in post-embryonic development among a diverse sample of zooplankton. The remaining variation is partially explained by stoichiometry, specifically the whole-body carbon to phosphorus ratio. Development in other animals at other life stages is also described by this model. These results suggest a general definition of biological time that is approximately invariant and common to all organisms.
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              Effects of body size and temperature on population growth.

              For at least 200 years, since the time of Malthus, population growth has been recognized as providing a critical link between the performance of individual organisms and the ecology and evolution of species. We present a theory that shows how the intrinsic rate of exponential population growth, rmax, and the carrying capacity, K, depend on individual metabolic rate and resource supply rate. To do this, we construct equations for the metabolic rates of entire populations by summing over individuals, and then we combine these population-level equations with Malthusian growth. Thus, the theory makes explicit the relationship between rates of resource supply in the environment and rates of production of new biomass and individuals. These individual-level and population-level processes are inextricably linked because metabolism sets both the demand for environmental resources and the resource allocation to survival, growth, and reproduction. We use the theory to make explicit how and why rmax exhibits its characteristic dependence on body size and temperature. Data for aerobic eukaryotes, including algae, protists, insects, zooplankton, fishes, and mammals, support these predicted scalings for rmax. The metabolic flux of energy and materials also dictates that the carrying capacity or equilibrium density of populations should decrease with increasing body size and increasing temperature. Finally, we argue that body mass and body temperature, through their effects on metabolic rate, can explain most of the variation in fecundity and mortality rates. Data for marine fishes in the field support these predictions for instantaneous rates of mortality. This theory links the rates of metabolism and resource use of individuals to life-history attributes and population dynamics for a broad assortment of organisms, from unicellular organisms to mammals.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                PLoS Biol
                PLoS Biology
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                August 2006
                11 July 2006
                : 4
                : 8
                1Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States of America
                2National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
                3Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America
                4Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, United States of America
                University of California Berkeley United States of America
                Copyright: © 2006 Gillooly et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Research Article

                Life sciences


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